Reds in Reserve: Liverpool 2-3 Everton

Posted by AdamS on August 16, 2005, 09:38:02 PM

The Racecourse is becoming a home away from home for Liverpool. With last year's reserve games hosted there and recent fixtures against Wrexham and TNS played at the ground there are many Scousers who have made its acquaintance. There's even rumours some haven't left since the TNS game and are contemplating marriage to local girls such is the attraction ...  anyway several thousand more enjoyed its unique pleasures tonight. The official attendance of 1341 was laughable, you could double or even triple that.

While going down 3-2 was not the ideal result, it was the first game for many Liverpool youngsters, a few having been in the country only weeks or even days. The stalwarts of last season Welsh and Potter were absent (injured) and several players were barely old enough to smoke in front of the bike sheds.

One of the newbies was the Ghanaian Antwi Godwin (signed from Real Zaragoza), and as the pre-match warm up wound down he booted a ball and it hit one of the Everton players. He just turned around smirking - I liked him already, good old Godwin.

Just before kick off I saw Keith Curle sign an autograph for a Liverpool fan. What is that all about? Anyway...

The game started in the worst possible fashion. Before I had even figured out what formation we were playing Everton won a free kick after Barragan caught Seargeant's heels (it was the only foot he was to put wrong all night). From the resultant free kick the tall Vidarsson rose and headed home. 1-0 down within five minutes.

O'Donnell and in particular Whitbread were struggling to handle Everton's physical and strong number 9 Victor Anichebe and several free kicks and throw ins were given away. Everton were clearly the dominant team early on. In the fifteenth minute Everton's James Harris was somewhat harshly booked for a foul that made Godwin scream like a girl. You'll need to get used to that lad.

From about the twentieth minute Liverpool started to get back into it. Hobbs was growing in confidence in the middle of the park and we forced a couple of corners. Barragan then took on several players on a diagonal run. It came to nothing but he was really starting to impress.

Against the run of play on in the thirty fifth minute Everton doubled their lead. The impressive Scott Phelan whipped in a great cross from the right and Vidarsson jumped to double his and Everton's tally as the ball looped over Wilson who, like last year's incumbent Paul Harrison, is small for a keeper.

Liverpool's first decent chance came moments later when Whitbread headed what was the second of two successive corners over the bar. Everton were allowing Liverpool's inexperienced midfield no room and so the lads were having to play with their backs constantly to goal.

As half time drew close a steward walked by and a lad of about four sat behind me said  "Look Dad, the AA Man!". Light relief.

Just minutes into the second half and Anichebe used his strength to roll O'Donnell and as he just as he was getting away Whitbread went into the tackle and the ref blew for a penalty. From where I was sitting it was a strange decision. The captain and centre back for Everton Mark Hughes stepped up and hit it to the keeper's right, but with Dudek-like inspiration Wilson dived and turned the ball away.

On fifty minutes though Everton were attacking again and a long cross found Hughes who headed across goal and Anichebe headed home. Why was the small Peltier marking Hughes? You tell me!

The game was about to get a right shake up and that shake up was to be in the form of Florent Sinama-Pongolle returning from his cruciate ligament injury for his first competitive action since January. I rate this lad so highly and honestly think he can go on to become a player ranked alongside Shaun Wright Phillips.

Within moments of coming on he turned his man, took it past another man and was brought down. Mannix took the resultant free kick from the right wing position and after great movement to lose his marker Sinama jumped and bulletted a header past Wright.

The team grew in confidence and I was reminded of the night by the Bosphorus. Hamill linked up well with Guthrie who slipped the ball to Flo, he turned and whipped in a cross to Godwin (goodness knows why he was playing as lone striker), he got a bit too much on his shot and flashed it wide of the near post.

Josemi was brought on for Peltier to add strength to the back line on the hour and Liverpool continued to press. Barragan and Flo linked up really well and it was play by them and Guthrie that created the next chance. Hamill rose to meet Guthrie's cross and managed to just beat the keeper to it, but didn't get enough on it to score.

From a corner O'Donnell rose and won the header, it fell to Whitbread but he couldn't get a shot away and so attempted an  overhead shot and it just cleared the bar. The pressure continued and as we entered the final ten minutes Barragan took a long throw that fell to Guthrie who lashed a wicked left footed shot past the Everton keeper and into the net. 2-3.

Minutes later Sinama again tuned his man and beat another firing in a cross-shot from the right angle which a sliding Everton player knocked for another corner. Josemi had nullified the threat of Anichebe at the back at this stage - I'd forgotten how strong the Spaniard was.

After some hard tackling in the middle of the park, led by the young lad Hobbs who didn't half get stuck in there, was a bit of a melee. It looked to me straight away that Harris was in trouble, he could have had a straight red from what I saw. It initially appeared though that there would only be a booking for Mannix (I think it was him), but then the referee wandered over to the Everton number six and gave him his second yellow and license for an early bath.

Despite late pressure from Liverpool we couldn't force an outright chance and the game finished with Everton sneaking it 3-2. The positives are that we grew throughout the game and there were some excellent debuts, from Hobbs and in particular Barragan and Sinama looked brilliant when he came on.

Liverpool Team

Willis, Barragan, Peltier (Josemi 60), O'Donnell, Whitbread, Hobbs, Wilkie (Sinama-Pongolle 50), Guthrie, Godwin, Mannix, Hammill (Frayne 85).

Man of the Match: Antonio Barragan. Without wanting to go too over the top, he plays with a calm confidence you see in few players. He has the grace of a Xabi Alonso, although obviously in a totally different position.

© AdamS 2005

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